AURORA, Ill. — Just because Joan Creviston of Aurora is losing her sight doesn't mean she can't have a vision.
The 47-year-old former interior designer can only see within a 10-degree radius, but she's using what sight she has left — along with a passion for exercise — to start an online fitness training business and help people "see fitness differently."
Fitness Vision with Joan combines two of Creviston's passions: promoting an active lifestyle and raising money and awareness for retinitis pigmentosa, the visual disorder that's stealing her sight.
"My true goal is to change people's lives through fitness, and just as important is to raise money for a cure," she said.
She generates funds by donating a portion of proceeds from each DVD sold at fitnessvisionwithjoan.com to the Foundation Fighting Blindness for research on degenerative eye conditions. She builds awareness of visual disorders by using a broad sense of "vision" in the name of her business and speaking openly about her loss of sight.
Diagnosed in her mid-20s with retinitis pigmentosa, Creviston knew she'd have to make a switch from her original career as an interior designer. Fitness was a natural fit because she'd always enjoyed athletics growing up.
She became a personal trainer and group exercise instructor for the Fox Valley Park District, but her field of vision kept shrinking.
Creviston now can see about a 10 degree radius instead of the more than 180 degrees a person with full vision can see when looking straight ahead and using peripheral vision.
Looking at a person's face, Creviston can make out the outline of hair — whether it's short or long and its color — but she can't see anything below the chin. Still, she doesn't tire of explaining her range of vision to new clients and people she meets.
"They ask a lot, and I'm glad that they ask a lot because it brings awareness to degenerative visual disorders," she said.
Along with awareness, Creviston has raised more than $200,000 for the Foundation Fighting Blindness with the help of supporters who have joined her team for the Chicago Vision Walk the past six years, said Michele DiVincenzo, associate director of events for the foundation's Midwest region.
"The support of individuals like Joan and the fact that she has her walk team and she's been involved so long is really, really crucial to our mission," DiVincenzo said. "Just because you have low vision, it doesn't have to slow you down."
Building her business
Creviston said her dual objectives of helping people change their views on fitness and raising money to cure retinitis pigmentosa are keeping her motivated and far from slowing down.
Her philosophy of short burst workouts — exercising for five- or 10-minute periods a few times a day — allows busy people to work out without spending an hour at the gym. She says it also increases metabolism and breaks up the monotony of treadmills and stationary bikes.
"It is much easier than you think to fit fitness into your life," Creviston said. "Through the use of short burst workouts, you can get your fitness in and still have your lifestyle."
Her website features five- or 10-minute videos to work arms, shoulders, abs, thighs and other muscles. The moves can be adjusted for different levels of intensity.
"It's a little bit different approach to exercise," Creviston said. "It's a little bit more fun, it's a little bit more integrated. It's not as long and grueling, so it holds your interest."
The workouts — and the flexibility of being able to do them at home, while traveling, or anywhere there's a computer or TV — have done the trick for Scarlett Current of Aurora, a client of Creviston's who's serving as a consultant for the web-based business.
Current said she now sees exercise as a give-and-take instead of an obligation she has to fulfill for her health without any real benefits.
"The goal is to change the way you see fitness, the way that you look at working out," Current said. "(Creviston) really has been responsible for me having a totally new relationship with fitness."
The spunk and enthusiasm that make Creviston an effective trainer in person translate well into the high-energy workout videos on her site, Current said.
"I think her professionalism and personality shows through the videos," Current said. "You can see her personality in five minutes."
Creviston also makes a quick impression on about 1,000 people each summer while leading warm-up exercises for the Vision Walk. People would never know her sight is extremely limited, DiVincenzo said.
"She just has that enthusiasm and has a go-getter attitude and she really inspires others who are affected and are also out there fighting for sight," DiVincenzo said.
Creviston said she can't imagine any lifestyle other than an active one — whether she can see or not. She hopes DVD sales through her online business can help increase her donations to the foundation and the research it supports.
As she heads into the first full year of running Fitness Vision with Joan, Creviston has high hopes she'll get the New Year's Resolution crowd and other fitness-phobes hooked on short burst workouts and "seeing fitness differently."
"Fitness shouldn't take up your whole life," she said. "But it should make your life whole."
Information from: Daily Herald, http://www.dailyherald.com